“ ‘During our pinpoint operations, we will remove both kidneys and the liver at once.’”
— Yevgeny Prigozhin, referring to Russia’s involvement in U.S. elections
That’s the Russian oligarch Yevgeny Prigozhin effectively admitting that Russia has interfered in past U.S. elections, going on to say it continues, and will continue, to interfere in U.S. politics.
“We have interfered, are interfering and will continue to interfere,” Prigozhin said in comments posted on social media. “Carefully, precisely, surgically and in our own way.”
Prigozhin is colloquially known as “Putin’s chef” in geopolitical circles, but the moniker far understates his influence. Prigozhin’s catering company has government contracts with the Kremlin and Russian President Vladimir Putin. But he also, for example, is believed to control the St. Petersburg–based Internet Research Agency, the so-called Russian troll factory.
Prigozhin was one of 12 Russians and three Russian organizations charged by the U.S. government as part of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into foreign influence in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
“Americans are very impressionable people; they see what they want to see,” Prigozhin said shortly after he was indicted by the U.S. for election interference in 2018. “I treat them with great respect. I’m not at all upset that I’m on this list. If they want to see the devil, let them see him.”
Prigozhin had denied involvement in election interference until now, according to the Associated Press and others.
The comments come as national-security advisers to U.S. President Joe Biden have reportedly been in recent contact with aides to Putin in an attempts to de-escalate tensions related to the conflict in Ukraine and broader nuclear or weapons-of-mass-destruction threats posed by Russia.